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Give the gift of cooking.
Here are a few of my favorite cookbooks ever.  And more than that, they are also my favorite cookbooks to give as gifts.  Each are beautiful to just read and admire the artwork and photos, but also offer unique information, recipes, instruction or skills, that sets them apart from the dozens and dozens and dozens I have on my shelves.

Forgotten Skills of Cooking: The Time-Honored Ways are the Best, by Darina Allen.  Head of the Ballymaloe Cookery School in East Cork, Ireland, Allen, with completely charming text and gorgeous photos, walks you through a multitude of "wait, I can do that at home?!?" culinary projects in more than 700 recipes.  From how to make butter, pluck a chicken, cure bacon, or whip up homemade limoncello, this book has not left my bedside since I first received it and is by far one of my very favorite finds ever.  Perfect for so many, from locavore homesteader to DIY hipster to grandma, and everyone in between.

Stir by Barbara Lunch.  A stunning book from James Beard-award winning, Boston chef Barbara Lynch.  Just flipping through this book in the store made me go directly to the market to find ingredients just to experiment with.  Both incredibly inspirational and accessible, this collection of recipes are a total pleasure to read, but also ones that will have you cooking again and again.

Inspired by Ingredients, by Bill Telepan.  One of my favorite books for years now, by one of my favorite chefs, and school lunch champion, in New York.  Set up by seasons and menus, this book is a beautiful locavore cooking class, highlighting the best the markets, or our gardens, have to offer at that place and time.  I'm drooling thinking of the beet greens pierogi, pea pancakes, and lavender crepes with blueberries.  Also, the introduction is so thoughtfully written and full of incredible culinary wisdom, that it was the first time I had considered writing a food fan letter, when I read it 5 years ago.  I had the honor of getting to work with Bill later on, so got thank him in person instead.

The Flavor Bible, by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg.  Containing an unimaginable amount of work and research, this ingredient dictionary of sorts, catalogues almost any food or flavor you can think of, with a long list of flavors and ingredients that it naturally pairs with.  I picked this book up while in culinary school, as I was starting to develop my own recipes, but wish I had had it years earlier, for those evenings of excavating the fridge, and the "now how am I going to make dinner out of this?" moments.  It also lays out the flavor and spice profiles of most international cuisines.  FYI cauliflower has a natural affinity for achovies, apple, bread crumbs, brown butter, capers, cardamom, cheese (emmental, goat, gruyere), chile peppers, chives, cream, currants, dill, leeks, lemon, mint, mussels, dijon mustard, nutmeg, olives, orange, pine nuts, poppy seeds, saffron, scallops, white truffles, watercress and yogurt.

The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Cuisine, from the French Culinary Institute. This 496 page gorgeous resource, from one of the top professional culinary schools in the country, is an excellent choice for a any cook who wants to expand their knowledge of basic culinary techniques.  From stocks, to pastry dough, to braising and filleting, all the fundamental building blocks are broken down in incredibly thorough description and photographs.  I received my chef degree from the FCI, and return to this book all the time, as it is step by step, exactly what we learned, from recipes to plating, in the first of six levels of the professional program.  Filled with accessible recipes, and teaching technique along the way, it offers guidance, recipes and instruction from our legendary culinary deans Jacques Pepin, Andre Soltner, and Alain Sailhac.

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, by Jeff Hertzberg MD and Zoe Francois.  This book is currently covered in flour and has not been returned to my bookshelf since it arrived.  I love bread baking, and bread bakers, and have taken some incredibly inspiring classes full of slow rising and yeasty starters.  However, as life grows increasingly more complicated, I just couldn't find a full day to devote to kneading, rising and punching down as frequently as I craved to.  A super talented friend brought a crusty-chewy loaf of magic to a dinner party and my bread days were changed.  This book offers a new bread method, with a short cut that allows you to have fresh, crusty, artisan bread any day of the week with about an hour's notice and no schmancy skill needed.  I have given this book as a gift more than any other this year, and it has made dinner time very warm and happy at my house.


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Catie Baumer Schwalb is a chef, food writer and photographer, who splits her life between the city and the country. Not too long ago Catie was a New York City based actress and playwright for more than a decade. She has her Master of Fine Arts from the National Theater Conservatory, and her Grand Diplôme in classic culinary arts from the French Culinary Institute in New York City. ... Read More

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